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Festive Guide: How To Master The Main Course Like A Pro

Posted on: by Women's Health
Man cutting up the meat main course for a festive feast

By Matthew Kadey; Photography by Unsplash

Cut above the rest

When it comes to big festive get-togethers, it’s the main course that counts the most. We show you how to master the challenge with minimal fuss.

Beef

Spare a thought for the environment and splurge on free-range beef. Researchers have concluded that it offers a slew of benefits, including higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and cancer-fighting compounds.
Buy this: Bones provide delicious flavour as well as a dramatic presentation. Ask your butcher to trim the excess fat, leaving a thin layer to baste the roast as it cooks, says chef Wolfgang Puck.
Chef’s secret: For even cooking, let the meat come to room temperature, then roast it at a high temp before reducing the oven heat to finish.
Perfect sidekicks: Potato gratin, spinach salad.

Gammon

An 85g serving has about half a gram of saturated fat, so you can pig out without porking up. Plus, the 15g of hunger-quelling protein will help ward off cravings for extra dessert. And gammon that you cook yourself is not nearly the salt tsunami the pre-cooked variety is.
Buy this: Go for gammon on the bone. It will cook more evenly, with better flavour and texture.
Chef’s secret: Scoring, or cutting slits into the meat, allows the glaze to seep in. Peel the skin (rind) from the ham, then use a sharp knife to score the fat layer half a centimetre deep in a criss- cross pattern, creating diamond shapes. Apply the glaze or other seasoning. Place the ham on a rack inserted into a roasting pan so it cooks on all sides and doesn’t become soggy.
Perfect sidekicks: Roasted sweet potatoes, green beans sautéed with garlic, coleslaw, rice salad.

Turkey

In addition to giving you an essential amino acid fix, lean turkey meat is a stellar source of the antioxidant selenium and vitamin B6, which may reduce heart-attack risk in women, according to Harvard scientists. To slash kilojoules, step away from the skin.
Buy this: Generally, turkey that’s frozen is just as good as fresh. Larger birds are better value because they have a higher meat-to-bone ratio, says Peter Berley, author of The Flexitarian Table. Avoid turkey labelled “basted” – it contains extra water and seasoning that can ruin your recipe.
Chef’s secret: Brining (soaking in salt water) draws water out of cells, which helps tenderise the meat. It requires a few days of prepping, but it’s worth it.
Perfect sidekicks: Roasted parsnips and potatoes, Swiss chard, apple-cranberry crumble.

Lamb

A staple of the super-healthy Greek diet, lamb is jam-packed with zinc and vitamin B12, a brain booster that may reduce those senior moments. And almost half the fat in lamb is made up of the heart-friendly monounsaturated kind that helps shave down those cholesterol numbers.
Buy this: One of the easiest cuts to work with is the leg. Any butcher worth his cleaver will debone and tie it for you if you’d like. Look for rosy pink, slightly firm-to-the-touch meat with moderate white marbling, which will keep the meat juicy and flavourful while cooking, says Michael Psilakis, author of How To Roast A Lamb.
Chef’s secret: For a killer combo of a crispy browned surface and a drool-inducing juicy interior, sear all sides of the lamb on the stove-top in an oven-ready pan. Then roast at a lower temperature inside the oven.
Perfect sidekicks: Baked potatoes or roasted beetroot and butternut, red onions with sage, cannellini bean salad, steamed asparagus.

Looking for more feasting tips? Here are four smart strategies that’ll help you to outsmart those festive fat traps.

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